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Wet dock not acceptable for breaking ghost ships

Friends of the Earth

Ghost ships must not be dealt with in wet dock, says Environment Agency

9th October 2003

Friends of the Earth today renewed its call for the toxic ghost ships heading for England to be turned back to the USA after the Environment Agency made it clear that they should not be dealt with in a wet dock. Earlier this week it was revealed that planning permission for the construction of a dry dock does not exist [1]. If the boats are allowed into Teesside, and they can't be dealt with in a dry dock, they will be pose a significant pollution threat to the local wildlife sites important for their populations of Knot, Redshank, Shelduck and other birds.

In a radio interview for BBC Radio Cleveland [2], Craig McGarvey, the Environment Agency's north-east area manager, made it clear that the disposal of the ships must be completed in a dry dock ("We will be seeking to make sure that happens") and that the entire proposal for scrapping the Ships in Teesside was based on this assumption.

Friends of the Earth has now written to the US EPA and the US Marine Administration calling on them to immediately prevent any further ships leaving the US and is also calling for the first two ships to be turned back.

Able's planned disposal of these boats now seems in real jeopardy. Able's options appear to be

A judicial review of Hartlepool's decision that planning permission doesn't exist for the construction of a rock-filled bund; or

Applying for new planning permission to build a dry dock and going through the appropriate environmental impact assessment procedure.

In a separate move earlier this week, Friends of the Earth warned the Environment Agency that its actions in allowing a modification of the waste disposal licence without properly carrying out an environmental assessment were unlawful, and that Friends of the Earth anticipates asking a court for permission to judicially review that decision.

Friends of the Earth's Campaigns Director Mike Childs said:

"This whole issue is fast becoming a sorry farce. Able UK does not have planning permission to build a dry dock to dispose of these boats, and it won't be allowed to deal with them in a wet dock. Yet two heavily polluted, rusty and dilapidated ships have been allowed to set sail from the USA to Teesside, and two more are due to leave any minute. It's about time the environment and people of Teesside were put before the interests of those seeking to benefit from the international trade in toxic waste. These boats must not be allowed into UK waters until all the issues have been resolved. Better still, the US should be forced to deal with its own toxic legacy, rather than dumping these ships abroad."

[1] Hartlepool Borough Council announced on Tuesday - a few hours after the first boats left - that Able UK, the British firm that is planning to bring up to 13 dilapidated US boats to Teesside for disposal, does not have planning permission to build a rock-filled bund (a type of dry dock) for the work to be carried out.

Contact details:

Friends of the Earth
26-28 Underwood St.
N1 7JQ

Tel: 020 7490 1555
Fax: 020 7490 0881